Before I get started…
Not much to say over the last couple weeks. This has to be the weirdest build-up to a WrestleMania ever. I feel like WWE said, “Wait, people already know the entire card? And they’re ALREADY saying the show is gonna suck?” and rather than switch things up or give us some hard-hitting elements, they just said, “Well, okay then, let’s just come up with a couple things in case people ask why these folks are fighting. I need ideas, people!”
To be fair, most of the matches had at least one moment during their build that made me go, “Whoa!” and decide then and there who I wanted to see win:
~ C.M. Punk dumping the ashes out of the urn onto The Undertaker was straight outta the attitude era and ranks right up there with Del Rio ripping off Rey Mysterio’s mask as one of the best heel moments I’ve ever seen. “Oh, so this stupid thing gives you power? Awesome. It’s a paper weight to me. I’m gonna pour the ashes out on you now.”
~ Mark Henry pushing the bench press bar down onto Ryback’s throat. The only thing comparable was, if I recall correctly, back in the A.W.A. days someone throwing a set of barbells at one of the Road Warriors. Just vicious and all kinds of gangster.
~ The Q & A panel between John Cena and The Rock had “TRAIN WRECK!” written all over it, but it ended up being my favorite moment the two of them have ever had. Cena in particular was great — that slow burn into anger and frustration — and Rock, I felt, really sold that whole “I made a mistake and that’s why you won.” If it wasn’t billed as “Once in a Lifetime,” they could’ve easily made that the centerpiece of a rematch build without people farting on it.
~ That first brawl between Triple H and Brock Lesnar. Pretty wild stuff in general, but for right now in PG-Land especially.
~ Four words: Alberto Del Rio’s back. No, not as in he has returned, but the welts he caught from that crutch attack by Jack Swagger and Zeb Coulter. Yikes!
All of those were moments that I enjoyed, but those are really the only ones I can remember. Just a weird WrestleMania build, and I’m hoping that they’ve paid attention to people’s reactions about the card and the build when planning out their matches. The WWE spends an awful lot of time and energy promoting social media and interactive elements of their shows. They aren’t in a vacuum anymore where cheers and boos determine people’s satisfaction with the product. They can go on Facebook and go on Twitter and see that people aren’t really excited about this show and go, “Okay, cool. Oh ye of little faith,” and then blow everybody’s friggin’ mind with the show.
Glass half full, Suspensioneers.
All right, enough of that. Let’s get down to bidniss.
Suspension of Disbelief begins… now!
I was still living in The Massachusetts Avenue House. My grandfather helped build it and it was an odd, quirky place. Like most old houses, the basement was scary, the walls were thin, and there were always drafts around the doors and windows. During the winter of 1998-1999 we actually had to put up plastic sheeting around the back door and from the foyer by the front door — and then a blanket over that — to keep either the cold from getting in or the heat from getting out.
It was a multi-family unit. Upstairs was Elida and her son Freddy — who was about 8-10 years older than me and one of the coolest guys ever. Quite a few of my childhood memories have to do with him being an awesome babysitter, and he is the reason I started wearing my favorite cologne, Calvin Klein’s “Eternity.” On the main floor it was me, my father, and my baby brother (who is only 18 months younger than me but will remain my baby brother until the day I drop dead), and in another apartment on the main floor, a tenant with a husband (or boyfriend, I can’t remember if they were hitched), and a daughter. The tenant’s name was Lillian, and they had a cool silver car with a vanity plate that read, “Chill Lil.”
They were awesome.
It the summer of 1990, and it was the evening of SummerSlam. I had watched all of the WWF Wrestling Superstars and WWF Wrestling Challenge shows leading up to it and it was my hero, Hulk Hogan, vs that no good sunamunbeetch Earthquake in one half of the main event. I wanted to see this event more than I wanted anything else in life except for a lightsaber (remember, Star Wars always comes first, although nowadays it’s a lightsaber and a Knicks championship), but we were ballin’ on a budget and couldn’t afford to order the pay-per-view. I was distraught and the wait to find out the results was interminable.
I remember being resigned to my fate when all of a sudden I heard the unmistakable sounds of the WWF announcing crew. I thought I was just making it up, my mind playing tricks on me then the way it does now when I swear I feel my phone vibrate when I’m anticipating an important text message. I listened even more carefully and realized that, yes, I was hearing WWF announcers! But how? HOW?? There was no show on tonight. Well, no show except…
…except for the pay-per-view!
But where was this sound coming from? Elida and Freddy? No, I don’t think they liked wrestling. I walked into our kitchen and listened carefully at the door separating our apartment from Lillian’s and the sounds grew louder as I pressed my 10 year old ear up to the door. My suspicions were correct! THEY WERE WATCHING THE PAY PER VIEW!! I can’t remember now if I knocked on the door and asked if I could watch too, in all likelihood I would’ve been way too shy back then to do that. I think I asked my father to ask them if it was okay, and they said yes!
Say it with me, arms in the air: YES! YES! YES! YES! YES!
I sat on the floor in their apartment and I watched Hulk Hogan battle Earthquake that nite. I enjoyed the hospitality of my neighbors with the cool car and the ice cold vanity plate and saw “Ravishing” Rick Rude come thissss close to defeating that rat fink and crusher of dreams, The Ultimate Warrior, for the WWF Championship. It was a serendipitous evening, and I was a very, very happy kid.
As the years went on, ordering pay-per-views stopped being a big hassle. At first we would chip in, and then as we got older and our jobs got better we stopped needing that and whoever hosted would just foot the bill. The Royal Rumble is always mine, SummerSlam too, my friend Miss Heather has Survivor Series, and we rotate WrestleManias and the smaller pay-per-views.
Eventually though, the challenge became to start going to those pay-per-views. We saw WWE SummerSlam in 2002, WWE Fatal 4Way in 2010, and then this past December we took a trip to the Barclay’s center. Still, we could never get it together for the Showcase of the Immortals. We couldn’t fanute the time, the resources, the travel, the other logistics for a WrestleMania. We would watch those lucky bastards at the arena and seethe with jealousy at their good fortune and logistical talent.
Then the announcement was made for WrestleMania XXIX. MetLife stadium. A 90 minute car ride into New Jersey. We plotted. We planned. We acquired tickets. We harlem shaked
THE REAL HARLEM SHAKE THOUGH NOT THAT STUPID INTERNET MEME DANCE CRAP THAT I WILL NEVER WATCH IN A MILLION YEARS I MEAN MY GOD WHY DO YOU PEOPLE WATCH THAT CRAP AND DON’T TELL ME YOU WATCH IT CUZ ITS SO STUPID YOU SAID THAT ABOUT NAPOLEON DYNAMITE AND THAT MOVIE WAS AWFUL AND IT MADE JON HEDER A THING FOR LIKE 4 YEARS AND WHERE IS HE NOW OH RIGHT HES NOWHERE BECAUSE EVERYONE PUT DOWN THE PEYOTE AND REALIZED THAT TINA COME EAT YOUR HAM WAS STUPID STUPID STUPID AND DONT EVEN GET ME STARTED ON GANGNAM STYLE OR WHATEVER THE HELL AND THIS IS COMING FROM SOMEONE WHO CRIES AT MOVIE TRAILERS FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STOP WATCHING STUPID INTERNET VIDEOS AND SPREADING MEMES BECAUSE I LIKE ANIMALS BUT WANT TO SEE PSY AND GRUMPY CAT THROWN INTO THE AMAZON DURING PIRANHA SEASON AND DO THE REAL HARLEM SHAKE WHILE THOSE BASTARDS ARE SKELETONIZED
at our own good fortune and played the waiting game.
Now, my own personal road to WrestleMania took some swerves. My baby brother, the person who I love most in this world — sincerely — was coming with us. Yesterday I was going to wake up at 4:00 in the morning, drive to J.F.K. International Airport, and hug Mario. He was to be scruffy and tired, wearing a silly hat and a t-shirt that was about a size too small, and it was supposed to easily be the best day of the year, so far. We were going to come home, spend time with my father, take naps, visit my friend Jay at his new house with his wife and beautiful son, go see Jurassic Park, and then be bums at home for the remainder of the evening. We were going to wake up today, have breakfast, get ready, and go drive to New Jersey. He was going to wear the “JUST BRING IT” t-shirt I bought for him, with me donning the other. We were going to go to WrestleMania XXIX and he was going to be there and it was going to be the ultimate bucket list “FOREVER” moment that no one could ever take away from me.
And then we got the call that his job wouldn’t give him the days off.
He couldn’t fanute the schedule to take a different flight to minimize his time away.
I had to cancel his plane tickets.
Now, let me tell you a little something about me. I’m no stranger to pain. I’m no pansy about it either. When there’s work that needs to be done, painful work, I do it. Do what must be done and hope that there’s enough of who you started out as to get you through that pain. However… getting that news…
Getting that news stopped me in my tracks. It hurt in a way that was acidic and burning and yet cold and full of something I have classified a betrayal. I’ve been through some shit in my life, and my long time readers know all about it. This hurt worse. Not so much, “Bummer, he can’t come see grown men pretend to fight.” But of how cruel and cold it was that depriving my father and I of seeing our missing piece was now on the “OKAY” list for the Universe. It didn’t seem fair, and don’t tell me that “Well, jeez Rey, life isn’t fair,” because that’s hog shit. Life can be just as fair as anything else but there is a concerted effort by d-bags that don’t still hold out hope for fun and love and truth and fidelity to fuck it all up for the rest of us. Life could’ve picked other ways to be unfair.
Keeping Mario from coming home is a horrible precedent and it threatened to cast a pall over the entire damn thing for me.
The first day Mario said he might not be able to make it out, I texted my best friend Joe that if Mario couldn’t come out from San Diego, I was going to have to break the glass and use an Emergency Best Friend Card. Joe got engaged in 2011 and found out that his fiancée is two months pregnant with the younger sibling of his 4 year old son. He’s got stuff on his plate, but I let him know that I needed him and that if his fiancée and his son are okay, he has to be out for WrestleMania. He said he was in.
Fast forward to earlier this week, I let him know about the driving arrangements. He said cool, let me know where/when/what time/how much. I said don’t worry about the ticket or parking, it’s on me. His response:
And he’s been as psyched as can be.
And that’s the funny thing about Forevers. I guess they can’t really be planned, not all the time, anyway. I thought this story was going to be about Mario and I and our other friends that are going — Miss Heather and her boyfriend Dan, my close friends Jon, Dom and B. Smithy and their Dad, Dom’s son (my oldest “nephew,” who is my stars sun and moon), my newlywed friends Noel and Amanda (in the posh seats *glares*), the esteemed Pulse Glazer, and I’m sure a bunch of other people whose paths I’ve crossed on these internet skreets.
It has since morphed into a different story, a story about the Forever between my best friend and I, and for the billionth time in the almost 17 years we’ve been friends, Joe is coming through for me. When they closed the branch location I worked at in 2007, Joe helped my father and I stay afloat. When my dog ran away in 2006 and was gone for 3 days, Joe went on a whim and found him and brought F.R.E.D. back. Countless times in the early Aughts when I was sad or scared or lonely, Joe was there to make me laugh or to encourage me. When he got engaged he told me that I could make the speech at his wedding. When he told me he and his fiancée were pregnant, he told me they wanted me to be the Godfather.
Now, when the universe has decided that it’s perfectly all right to keep Papa and I from spending time with Mario…
When my bucket list and wrestling dork trip to Mecca was going to be a tiny bit less special…
When it looked like the lights would be a little less bright…
My best friend and his excitement and gratitude for this unexpected moment came through to save the day.
It’s true that more often than not these moments mean just a little bit more to me than to other folks. It’s true that I get way too caught up in these things and have Writer Rey rush to put things into a narrative that I can see developing in a misguided attempt at something vaguely resembling “control.” It’s true that I am far too emotional and cry at the drop of a hat, but I’ve accepted that, and so have the people that were placed in my life.
Moments like today, where joy comes in and shoos away disappointment…
They might not mean nothin’ to y’all, but I want them forever.
Thanks to my friends, including my best, today I get my forever.
Hey 10 year old me:
We’re going to WrestleMania.
This has been Suspension of Disbelief.
Rey Mundo is attempting to organize the world’s largest Prime Time Players “MILLIONS OF DOLLARS!” shuffle today at MetLife stadium. Contact him via twitter at @ElKatook to meet up, or to just say hi, or to tell me my columns suck. You’ve got vitriol. I’ve got a Bob Smith.
Tags: Hulk Hogan, john cena, the undertaker, Wrestlemania XXIX, WWE